Time out

Planning for growth may be an offline activity

Steve Rosvold
KRM Business Solutions

It is hard enough to keep your customers satisfied, the plant running efficiently and your suppliers on schedule. On top of all that, how can you profitably grow the business? Here is one method to kick-start the process.

Grab some time, mix in the right people, add some simple tools and you can break out of the rut that is impeding your growth.

Find a place to be creative. Invite your most trusted advisors and free thinkers. Find a venue that is warm and comfortable with few distractions. Make sure you have the equipment and supplies to make your event a success.
Some pre-meeting thought toward organizing the event will pay dividends in the success column. How you invite participants will set the stage for the enthusiasm and energy they will bring. Clearly identifying the purpose ahead of the meeting will result in a well-prepared group. Communicating pre-meeting assignments and a meeting time limit improves your chances for full participation.

Some of your options for growth include mining new customers, developing new markets, creating new products, utilizing untapped capacity, expanding current capacity, building new capacity or acquiring a company. The “Focus Matrix” (see the July 8, 2005, edition of the VBJ) can help quantify your highest return areas and identify the best options for obtaining your growth goals. It is an excellent tool to put meeting participants in harmony.

Your choice of a meeting facilitator is another key to success. An unbiased, open-minded advisor with good meeting management skills will keep the meeting on task. This person assigns meeting responsibilities, sees to it that all contribute, reels in off topic subjects and ensures the objectives for the meeting are met. They remove distractions that can reduce the effectiveness of the group. Often times a company will have the right person in house to facilitate a growth-focused meeting. Occasionally it is useful to use an outside advisor that is not rooted in company history or politics or blinded by self-interest.

Set a few ground rules for the meeting and post them as a reminder to the group.
• It is not an operational meeting to solve current issues in the business – leave those items at the office to be attacked when you return.
• No item supporting the meeting goal is off limits. At this stage put open mindedness at the top of the list – you will have plenty of opportunity down the road to toss out the less fruitful ideas.
• Allow the group to set other rules that will enhance the effectiveness of the meeting.

Adding the creative elixir to the meeting can be a challenge. However, it is an essential ingredient to success. There are a number of kickoff exercises you can perform to put your advisors in their creative zone. Certain techniques can help focus the group and control behavior while inviting all participants into the mix.

Once the group has run dry of new growth ideas, having a financial tool available to analyze the options is an excellent means to sort the grain from the chaff. Creating a simple financial pro-forma provides a common language for the team to discuss the concepts.This tool should include the incremental volume, revenue, cost and capital (financial and human) required executing a particular plan. Each idea or combination of ideas can be sketched into your financial tool and compared to one another from a return-and-capital-commitment perspective. This will highlight the strength and weaknesses in the concept and quickly identify the potential benefits and constraints surrounding the idea.

The combination of skilled advisors, time, a well-orchestrated meeting and a few simple tools can help you set a course for profitable growth.

Steve Rosvold runs KRM Business Solutions. Learn more about KRM at www.krmbusinesssolutions.com. Rosvold spent 22 years in finance and strategic planning at Cargill Inc and ConAgra Foods. He lives in Vancouver with his wife Pat and three children.

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